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World's Fair: A Novel [Hardcover]

E.L. Doctorow
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 12 1985
"Something close to magic." The Los Angeles Times

The astonishing novel of a young boy's life in the New York City of the 1930s, a stunning recreation of the sights, sounds, aromas and emotions of a time when the streets were safe, families stuck together through thick and thin, and all the promises of a generation culminate in a single great World's Fair . . .

From the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

Product Description

From School Library Journal

YA The 1930s was a turbulent time for America: the Great Depression, left-wing politics and the growing concern over the rise of Hitler in Europe. As seen through the eyes of nine-year-old Edgar Altshuler, these events provide a backdrop for the more intimate story of his own family and how they coped while living in the Bronx. They serve a symbolic purpose as well as a historical one. On his first visit to the fair, Edgar is enthralled by industry's vision of the futuresafe, secure and prosperous cities, speedy and cheap transportation and modern invention to make life easier. On his second visit, he sees that the exhibits are constructed of gypsum whose paint is peeling and that the displays are really toys. Reality has altered Edgar's perceptionshe is growing up. Edgar's chapters are randomly interspersed with his mother Rose's recollections and a few by his older brother Donald to give a seemingly simplistic view of life that is actually a rich narrative of history, political and personal values and points for discussion. A remarkable book for perceptive readers. Diana Hirsch, PGCMLS, Md.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From AudioFile

Flat and un-emotive are not words associated with E.L. Doctorow. Unfortunately, they are the prime descriptors of this rendition of Doctorow's recollection of a 1930s' New York boyhood. Lavelle has a well-modulated voice tinged with a minor key, which might work well for this New York story. Yet his slow, even reading is devoid of emotion. For all the interest he shows in the text, he might be clearly enunciating the telephone directory. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fair World's Fair Jan. 22 2003
Like a great painting, Doctorow choses his words carefully, depicting the 30s as the dark, mournful era that it was. Written well with the usual description that Doctorow is famous for, I have to say that the synopsis made the book sound more exciting.
The book details the experience that the protagonist and his family have while at the World's Fair in New York City. From the oddities to the fun, Doctorow did his research and what was there. Unlike his other books like Loon Lake or Welcome to Hard Times, I did not feel I was there, at the fair.
Displaying the 30s like it was, this book proves and depicts how far we have come since then. In the primitive times of tea-line-legged nylons and T&A was unheard of, historians and fans of Doctorow will be pleased. I applaud him for his historical essence and truthfulness . . . the excitement factor just was not there.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mature and insightful Nov. 4 2002
My dad is the same age as E.L. Doctorow, and although he did not grow up in NYC (visited there at times) he says that this novel is a close description of his own experience. It is about a very peculiar ethnic sub-group, New York jews who are not particularly religious and having "modern" ideas and lifestyle. To me Doctorow's book is one well-preserved verbal photograph after another. Somehow he conveys the scenes in a pre-Ektrachrome feeling, where bright colors are rendered in endlessly subtle shades of grey.
I hope that when I am Doctorow's age I will be able to summon up the wealth of memory detail he does. The images are authentically pressed from a the mind of a child not yet 12 years old. There are things that a child notices that an adult would not, such as how he likes how a particular door latch works or details from favorite comic books.
From there the narrative effortlessly moves to other characters in the story, written in the form of letters to the author. Everything is in place, and all of it wonderful to read.
This should be standard reading for any high school.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Such innocence! Aug. 5 2002
By lou
This book was very hard to put down once I stared to read it. It's a simple story about a boy growing up in Depression era NYC. There's no real excitement or climax (well, maybe Edgar finally going to the World's Fair) but it is simply a story about a boy and the time he lived in. Wonderfully written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wistful novel of nostalgia May 3 2002
By A.J.
E.L. Doctorow is probably New York's greatest literary nostalgia artist. While "Ragtime" recalls the city's colorful population explosion of immigrants at the beginning of the twentieth century and "Billy Bathgate" is a boy's Depression-era underworld fantasy, "World's Fair" evokes what it might have been like to grow up in the Bronx in the 1930's. The narrator, Doctorow's voice and presumed alter ego, is a Jewish boy named Edgar Altschuler who is about nine by the time the book ends, so it remains in a state of pre-pubescent innocence without entering into the turbulent years of adolescent awakening.
Edgar is an extremely observant child who is fascinated by the intricacies of the most mundane things and events. Normal kid routines like school, ball games, movies, comic books, and radio programs are described in loving detail as though he were eager to explain to his jaded adult readers what's so special about being a kid. Similarly, tragedies like the death of his grandmother, witnessing a woman getting hit by a car, and meeting terminally ill children in the hospital take on perceptively morbid new dimensions through Edgar's words.
The members of Edgar's immediate family are so realistic they seem like sepia-tinted photographs come to life. His father Dave co-owns a music store and, far from being the moral compass a father's role is traditionally given, is somewhat irresponsible and irreverent, a social activist about thirty years ahead of his time. Edgar's mother Rose is a bundle of anxiety, worrisome and contentious from living in a house full of men. His older brother, Donald, and uncle Willy are both musically inclined, one a failed bandleader, the other destined to be a failed bandleader.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another winner by Doctorow April 3 2002
For those of you who read Ragtime and were a little disappointed, then World's Fair is the book you should read. World's Fair is a great portrait of the 30s through the perspective of a young boy. Where Ragtime failed by not putting together a good story, World's Fair is successful. Not Doctorow's best book, but definitely close to it.
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By A Customer
I had read Doctorow's "Ragtime" and found it boring. A co-worker had just finished "World's Fair" and urged me to read it. I told her I didn't like "Ragtime" and she said, "Trust me. You'll like this one." I'm glad I trusted. She was a thousand percent right. If you're like me, and your introduction to Doctorow was with the best-selling "Ragtime" and you found it disappointing, trust me, you'll like this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars WOW! Feb. 4 2001
I don't think I have ever read a book that was so in tune with feelings I had as a child. Not meaning to be sexist, I had to question whether a woman might have written this book, and not a man. There were times I had to put the book down and just marvel at the beauty and insight of the words on the page. The ending came too soon! Praises, praises, praises to E.L. Doctorow! I will never give up my copy!
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